NTSB Cites Fatigue, Methamphetamine Use in Chattanooga Crash

The board noted that Kentucky is one of only two U.S. jurisdictions that do not provide crash data in their three-year driver license records. Because of this, Cool Runnings Express did not have crash data for this truck driver; he had had four crashes in the previous three years, two of which were CMV crashes, NTSB noted.

The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that a semitractor-trailer driver's fatigue, methamphetamine use, and failure to respond to slow-moving traffic in a work zone caused a 2015 multi-vehicle crash near Chattanooga, Tenn., in which six people died and four were injured. The safety agency announced the findings this week.

The truck was operated by Cool Runnings Express, Inc. and was traveling northbound on I-75 on June 25, 2015, as traffic slowed while entering a marked work-zone. But the truck's driver "failed to slow with the traffic and instead collided at highway speed with the rear of a Toyota Prius, starting a crash sequence that ultimately involved seven other vehicles and a total of 18 people," according to the agency's summary.

The board has issued a total of seven new safety recommendations, including four to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, two to the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Tennessee Department of Transportation, and one to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Idaho Transportation Department. The recommendations address issues that include the truck driver's performance, drug testing programs, inadequacies of driver license records and background checks, and the over-representation of trucks versus other vehicles in work zone crashes.

The new recommendations to FMCSA include these:

  • Disseminate information to motor carriers about using hair testing as a method of detecting the use of controlled substances, under the appropriate circumstances.
  • Modify 49 Code of Federal Regulations 391.23(a) to include the requirements described in 49 CFR 391.25(b)(2) -- that is, to specify that the motor carrier must 1) consider the driver's crash record; 2) consider any evidence that the driver has violated laws governing the operation of motor vehicles; and 3) give great weight to violations such as speeding, reckless driving, and operating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs that indicate the driver has exhibited a disregard for public safety.
  • Evaluate motor carrier use of, and perspectives on, your Pre-Employment Screening Program and identify and address barriers affecting the use of the PSP, examining issues such as the value, accuracy, and timeliness of the information, and the cost of, and incentives for, using the program.
  • Collect and publish best practices for pre-employment investigations and inquiries within the trucking industry.

The board noted that Kentucky is one of only two U.S. jurisdictions that do not provide crash data in their three-year driver license records. Because of this, Cool Runnings Express did not have crash data for this truck driver; he had had four crashes in the previous three years, two of which were CMV crashes, NTSB noted.

NTSB said in its report that although the truck driver had an opportunity for overnight rest before the crash, he had likely gone without sustained rest for 40 hours prior to the accident.

"Ending impairment in transportation and reducing fatigue-related accidents are on the NTSB's Most Wanted List because fatigue and impairment have led to so many tragic outcomes – not only in commercial trucking, but in all modes of transportation," said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. "Our investigation reveals how this driver’s choices and actions, in the days and hours before the crash, led to the crash and loss of life."

The truck driver's post-accident drug test revealed methamphetamine use, and the board reported it found no prescription for its use by the truck driver and concluded that the truck driver illegally used methamphetamine prior to the crash and the effects of the drug degraded his driving performance.

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